In Your Backyard

It is the battle cry of every fish and game club out there: “How can we attract more people to hunting and fishing?”

And next to perhaps the gun registry and habitat loss, participation is the most talked about subject at outdoors-related gatherings.

But I’m going to ask the tough question: Do you really want more hunters? Do you really want more anglers? Because if you got what you supposedly wished for, it would mean more competition for hunting grounds, more anglers on the lakes and rivers to disturb your peace and generally more people tramping around the back forty — a back forty that used to be your own private piece of paradise before all those new hunters showed up.

If you still maintain you’d like to see more hunters in the field, good for you! You’re a better outdoorsman than most. I have some great ideas I’d like to run by you to make this wish a reality.

The first is for you bow hunters out there. In jurisdictions where this isn’t already the case, I propose all archers share the bow season with crossbow users. This will serve to make arrow hunting more accessible by catering to a wider variety of people, including those who don’t have the requisite practice to be proficient with a traditional, recurve or compound bow. Sound good? Great! I have more ideas.

For both bow and rifle hunters, I propose that your respective deer, moose and elk seasons are shortened by one week to allow seven days where only new or youth hunters are permitted to hunt. That way, newbies can head afield with experienced hunters who are only permitted to instruct and advise, not to take an animal. This will increase hunter participation a great deal, no doubt. And you — the experienced hunter — will just have to sacrifice one week. Not too much to ask, I think.

As far as fishing goes, these ideas cross over. In Alberta, and many other provinces, there are already Free Fishing Weekends, where people can fish without a licence. But that doesn’t address the needs of those who would like to go fishing, but still don’t have anyone to go with, or anywhere to go. So up the ante — people with existing fishing licenses are not allowed to fish on the Free Fishing Weekend unless accompanied by a non-licensed angler (i.e.: newbie). Schedule the Free Fishing event for May Long Weekend and I’d bet you’d see experienced anglers recruiting novices as they passed them on the street.

Or what about restricting rod days on all lakes and rivers? That way if you’ve fished to the quota of days, you are required to move on to another water body — freeing up your old fishing hole for someone else.

OK, I will admit some of these are a little bit extreme, and I may have been playing a little bit of devil’s advocate. I am merely illustrating a point that is the sportsman’s dirty little secret. We like to talk a big game, but not as many of us are out there actually educating new hunters, taking novices fishing or sharing our hunting grounds or time afield with others. After all, the less people we attract to hunting, the less people we’re going to bump into in the woods. Everybody wants more hunters and anglers — as long as they’re not “in my backyard.”

Well, I hate to break it to you — you can’t have one without the other. We may not ever need to see any of the (somewhat out-there) “ideas” I mentioned in this article, but the fact remains: we either want more people taking up outdoor sports — or we don’t. Which side of the fence do you sit on?

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